All Americans

History does not stop making clever moves. We try to know the history we are making, but we are always creating another one. According to official calculations, the center of importance of Obama’s international policy was heading toward Asia, where China was ever more explicitly challenging Obama and the United States’ predominance. Obama found himself unexpectedly restrained in the Middle East — due to the war in Syria and the challenge posed by the Islamic State — and also in the haunted relationship with Russia because of the annexation of Crimea. And when no one expected it, and for an exclusively diplomatic job, that center of gravity, a movable pivot in his international policy, came back to his front door from the Americas still ballasted by the remains of the Cold War, the Castro government.

Obama said it in his speech and in Spanish: “Todos somos americanos.” Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, who embraced the meetings; Jorge Bergoglio, the Argentine pope who provided the impetus and the coverage of credibility; Raúl Castro, dictator and brother of a dictator, who dares to open these doors so conveniently sealed around the ruin of his tropical socialism; and Barack Obama, the first African-American who reached the White House and the president with the highest global sensitivity and who is the least European of all the presidents.

All of these Americans have a perfect negotiation. Without filtration or pressure by the media. Nor with Europeans, agents needed in so many negotiations. The most European is the Vatican, now governed by an Argentine. His unique and relevant comments have been to lionize the role of diplomacy, with its small steps and discretion, from which at least one political lesson can be deduced: Promoting a change of government with sanctions and threats does not tend to have good results.

The agreement has taken public opinion by surprise. However, it has not surprised very attentive observers, like Richard Feinberg of the Brookings Institution, who in September wrote a revealing article entitled “Cuba and Summitry in the Americas.” The beginning of the article says everything: “In coming months, the United States is going to face a tough choice: either alter its policy toward Cuba or face the virtual collapse of its diplomacy toward Latin America.”

The seventh Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Panama in April, was going to be shipwrecked without Cuba’s attendance, demanded by all of the countries facing Washington’s veto. Now, however, Cuba will focus the photograph of the American unit, an image with enormous potential for the future of the continent. Obama has converted an obstacle into an opportunity that will mark his presidency. There is nothing more difficult than rectifying a mistaken policy that has lasted years and that has been the fruit of long and trying agreements. When it happens, it usually produces immediate and spectacular results.

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